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Judge Will Rule on Portland Police Use of Force After "Union" Stalls DOJ Agreement
City Pressing Ahead with Changes for Better and Worse

On July 18, federal Judge Michael Simon announced that due to the impasse among the US Department of Justice (DOJ) siding with the City of Portland against the Portland Police Association (PPA), he would need to press ahead with a trial to determine whether Portland's police engage in a pattern and practice of excessive force. The City had already agreed to make a sweeping number of changes (PPRs #58 & 59), putting some in place before the Agreement was formally entered into the court. The Albina Ministerial Alliance (AMA) Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, assigned "enhanced friend of the court" status by Simon, entered into a separate "Collaborative Agreement" granting the Coalition (and the community) a part in the process of overseeing the institution of the reforms. The side agreement also led to a centralized web page at PortlandPolice.com showing the progress of DOJ-related reforms and meetings of PPB advisory groups.

The one exception to that list is the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) Advisory Council, which began meeting behind closed doors in February and repeatedly rebuffed efforts to allow more members of the public, including people with mental health issues, to plug in. Citing privacy of health information, the names of the Council's members were not even made public until the July 17 City Council meeting where the AMA Coalition agreement was adopted. (At that, not all the members' names were made public). Why is this so important? For example, the BHU includes the Mobile Crisis Unit, in which mental health professionals are teamed up with one officer in each precinct on a shift. For reasons unexplained, the BHU chose, and the Advisory Council apparently supported, that one of those officers would be Bret Burton, one of the three cops who beat James Chasse, Jr, causing his death in 2006 (PPR #40). Imagine being a person with mental health issues, finding yourself in crisis, and then seeing Burton's name tag as the police approached supposedly to calm the situation.

Capt. Pat Walsh, formerly the PPB Compliance Coordinator, was transferred to the Tactical Operations Division; Clay Neal, who'd been hired as his assistant, moved on to another job. It is unclear who is overseeing the DOJ changes at the Bureau.

The PPB's DOJ web page also includes a list of about eighty "to do" items, with the perceived implementation status indicated using color-coding. The one item highlighted in red is revising protocols for compelling officer statements in deadly force incidents, held up by the PPA's insistence that this affects their "right to collectively bargain." In fact, they are given the right to bargain over changes by law and by the Agreement itself. Instead, it seems the PPA wants to claim their support for changes but hold up progress on the parts that mean the most to the community: accountability, training, and use of force (see Rapping Back).

Bringing into question the City's commitment to making change is more news that the PPB has not been using the "Crisis Assessment and Treatment Center" because they feel it is too burdensome on officers and won't take people experiencing actual crisis (PPR #59). In early May during budget talks, Multnomah County and workers at the CATC denied the Bureau's claims (Oregonian, May 5). Though the Mayor nearly cut the funds for the center, he managed to keep it going after cutting a deal with the County (Portland Mercury, May 22).

Other changes from the DOJ Agreement include the hiring of more investigators at the "Independent" Police Review Division (article) and Internal Affairs.

Now in effect is the "Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team," (ECIT) about 50 officers who volunteered for training to supplement the required 40 hour CIT training and who will be called on scene when a mental health crisis is perceived. While the officers were being trained, Chief Reese went out on patrol to help cut down on overtime expenses, which then prompted a grievance from the PPA saying the Chief was violating their right to work those shifts (Willamette Week on line, July 3).

Next steps include the City figuring out a process to hire the Compliance Officer/Community Liaison to manage the oversight of the changes, then revising the process described in the DOJ Agreement to pick 5 of the 15 community members of the Community Oversight Advisory Board. The original plan calls for City-wide elections for the five seats, with the other 10 being picked by City Council and the Human Rights Commission/Portland Commission on Disabilities. This is all happening without the Judge entering the Agreement in court, which likely can't occur until (and unless) he finds the City violated Constitutional rights and orders changes made. At that time, the community will have input at some form of a "Fairness Hearing." More significantly, if Simon makes such a finding, he will be able to order the City to change the PPA's bargaining agreement to conform to the court's remedies. PPA Attorney Anil Karia seemed to be rolling the dice and expecting that there will be no finding of wrongdoing when he urged the judge to move forward with the trial, expected to take place sometime in summer 2014. It is, of course, somewhat ironic that the City, which stands to lose face if they lose at trial, is technically the PPA's co-defendant in the court case.

  People's Police Report

September, 2013
Also in PPR #60

Record-Setting Settlement
  Use of Force Levels Off

Judge to Rule on Use of Force
  As Police Union Stalls

20 Years of PPR!
Law Enforcement Spying
Oversight Board Hears Two Cases
  on Profiling

City Stomps Protest for Houseless
Police Psychologist Applicant
  Process Altered

Force, Bad Service Cost City $80K
Police Shootings Around Oregon
Cops Target African Americans
Oregon Police Involved in Crimes
Quick Flashes
  • Cops Still Riding Horses
  • No Misconduct Observed at Mayday
  • Court Allows More Searches
  • Union Negotiations
Rapping Back #60

Portland Copwatch
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065/ Incident Report Line (503) 321-5120
e-mail: copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org

Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.

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